Is moving to the country right for you?

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It seemed like a good idea in lockdown, but is moving to the country right for you?

Rachael Wallis, University of Southern Queensland

The idea of moving to the country has gained momentum through the COVID-19 pandemic. Many workplaces have introduced new policies on working from home that give employees the flexibility needed to make the switch.

Lockdowns have shown many just how cramped and uncomfortable life can be when you cannot escape to the usual activities that get you out of the house. And if everything is closed, what is the point of being in the city and paying a higher rent or mortgage anyway? The Reserve Bank has noted rents have gone down and vacancy rates have gone up in major cities.

At the same time, some real estate agents have noticed an upturn in interest in renting or buying rural and regional properties. The demand in some regional areas has pushed up prices by as much as 30 per cent in the year to October. It seems many are already making the switch to country living.

It sounds idyllic. Escape the rat race, have space to grow vegies and let the kids play outside. You won’t have to commute anymore, and you might even be able to buy a house in the country at a time when city prices remain out of reach for many. You could be living the dream.

aerial image of Hopkins River and Warrnambool
The surge of interest in living in coastal towns like Warrnambool in Victoria has already pushed up regional property prices.
Greg Brave/Shutterstock

Find a place that matches your values

So, how do you know if this is right for you, or a disaster waiting to happen?

In my research with people who moved to the country, I found successful moves came down to how closely aligned people’s values were with the attributes of the place they moved to. For example, some people value space and quiet more than bustle and activity. If they found these attributes in their new home, then they were able to craft a new life that was deeply satisfying.

When you look through the pages of a glossy magazine such as Country Style, you might find yourself yearning for the lifestyle it depicts – the grassy fields, the peaceful but quirky homes filled with flea-market finds, the home-grown abundance and the happy, contented people. These are long-held and highly regarded values that many hold dear.

The roots of these ideals are deep. Representations of the country as a rural idyll, a place to escape to, are centuries older than our current media.

Epicurus (340BC to 270BC) moved from the centre of Athens to the countryside just outside, so he could grow vegetables and live simply. Virgil’s (70BC to 19BC) Eclogues emphasised a rural idyll, as did much later painters such as John Constable and Eugene von Guérard. Henry David Thoreau’s Walden (1845) is an oft-quoted classic about an urban dweller moving to a rural place to live a better life (albeit temporarily in his case).

Early Australian writers such as A. B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson and Henry Lawson took up this nostalgic ideal in the fledgling colony. So did artists such as Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton and Charles Condor when they travelled to then-rural Heidelberg, now part of Melbourne, to paint the uniquely Australian countryside.

More recently, we have seen Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence (1991) sketch a romantic picture of city dwellers moving to rural France. And there are popular television series such as The Good Life (1975-77), SeaChange (1998-2000, 2019), River Cottage Australia (2013-16) and most recently Escape from the City.

three women on a rural property
Escape from the City is explicitly pitched at people who ‘dream of a quieter life’.
ABC iView

Beware the gap between depictions and reality

We know the media are a powerful factor in helping us develop and share our identity and personal narratives. We respond to television shows, books and magazines that we are interested in by becoming their audience. We might share values, goals, ideas or even similar stories with the media we watch. We then, consciously or unconsciously, learn from or adopt those ideas and values in a process of socialisation that shows us how we might live a better life.

Media are only a representation, however. A multitude of factors, not least of which are sales and advertising revenues, go into the process of decision-making as images and stories are crafted for the various outlets. There can be a tendency for media to adopt stereotypes as a shorthand form of communication, but these do not necessarily reflect the reality they purport to depict.

This might seem obvious, but it is all too easy to accept these images as truth when we are inclined towards that viewpoint anyway.

Do you value the things that make a rural place what it is, whether that is peacefulness, an absence of people, vistas of rolling hills, or the community of a small country town? If you do, there’s a good chance a move to the country will enable you to live more closely in line with your values and so be a successful one.

If, on the other hand, you value city-style living, which includes attractions, shops, events and being close to services, you might want to reassess whether a sea change or tree change is right for you.

The Conversation

Rachael Wallis, Lecturer, University of Southern Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

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Total Comments: 8
  1. 1

    I was brought up on a farm, and have always hated cities. The constant noise, traffic, parking meters, traffic lights unsociable people. Give me the country anytime, rolling green hills, cattle grazing in the paddocks, birds in the garden for a feed. Waking up to the sound of roosters crowing. Yep I’m happy.

  2. 0

    I was with you, right up to the roosters bit…

  3. 1

    living in the country is great , ( I now live in the city and hate it being so close to people really drives me crazy) as I said its great until you get sick then you have to be healthy enough to accesss health care only usually available in cities .

  4. 0

    I’ve lived in both the city and the country throughout my life. I live in the country now and it suits me as an older person. However, the city has many attractions you can’t find here and I miss those. Ideally, if I had a spare few million or so, I’d keep a flat in the city, have a beach house and keep my house in the country. Ah well…..

  5. 0

    Best thing we ever did 6 years ago. 5 acres of peace and serenity, gorgeous views, lovely neighbourhood. We were already retired so were not looking for work. Grow our own veges and fruit and the acreage is enough to keep us healthy.
    Although there is a Plaza in town the shops are pretty basic for younger people – but they suit us fine. Do a lot of on line purchases though.
    If you have children around teenage age be careful where you choose as their needs may not be met in certain areas. Most around us locally are heavily involved in sport and go to a larger centre for entertainment, etc. that requires around 1 hour of travelling.

  6. 0

    Country life (I’ve live in remote areas, small towns, regional centres and major cities) is all very well, if you don’t mind poor internet, common power outages, poor services ie no water or sewerage, postal, council, TV and so on, as well as a disitance out of a town that might not have the medical, entertainment or even grocery/hardware/government agency school or even banking facilities that you might want or need.

    It all depends on what you mean by “the country”. Anything smaller than a large regional centre means loss of facilities. Be prepared.

  7. 0

    Some years I wrote a book about moving from the city to the country. I also taught adult education classes for a couple of semesters in Canberra using my book as a reference. I covered just about everything I could think of and tried to make people aware that moving from the city to the country is not always what it seems. You basically swap one set of problems for another. However, I live in the country and love it but it comes with challenges. Maybe I should update my book???

  8. 0

    The move out of the big cities is well underway and not just in Australia – the same is happening in most of the developed world. Where are most of the virus cases? Yes, in the big cities where people’s health is compromised by stress, pollution, noise and emf’s one can’t escape. With 5G now being rolled out across our cities it’s only getting worse. I have happily lived in the country and am still enjoying it. Had one year in Sydney and couldn’t wait to return home. Here properties are being snatched up as soon as they hit the market, it’s crazy! Rents are super tight too, and price rises are a certainty.



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